A Place for Tradition?

Laura Stockwell

The Inventors of Tradition is housed in disused building on Stockwell Street.  In a past life it was clear the location of the exhibition had simply been a deserted, white-washed box room with no apparent prospects (it was in fact a unoccupied retail space).

The transformation of the premises which house the exhibition is much like the changing fashion industry today. With the introduction of mass branding and chains like Primark taking over the High Street it feels like the traditional methods of textile production have been lost. However, the exhibition of 21 Stockwell Street aims to rectify this situation by educating the average civilian, like myself, about fashion and what it should mean. Through displays of exclusive archive material from a number of individuals and companies, ‘The Inventors of Tradition’ tells the story of the Scottish textile industry. We begin in the 1930s and take a journey through fashion and textiles which ends in the 1990s. Significant and world class work by designers including Elizabeth Radcliffe, Robert Stewart and Jean Muir, is displayed throughout the room in a range of different ways. Valuable pieces and their designs are enclosed in display cabinets, as well as  photographs of the designers and their factories. A series of short films can be found towards the end of the exhibition. All are documentaries sourced from the Scottish Screen Archive in the National Library of Scotland.

I would not really call myself an avid follower of fashion, and so on entering 21 Stockwell Street, I was concerned about how out of place I would look. I am a self-confessed borrower when it comes to clothes, and most items in my wardrobe have belonged to one of my many relatives (Thanks Grandma).With this in mind, I was fascinated by such a historically based exhibition. And in some cases I found myself saying, ‘I have one of those!’, and  (rather embarrassingly) I saw items of clothing similar to some of the hidden clothes in my Mother’s wardrobe. I think in todays fashion world, an exhibition like this plays an important role. It is crucial that the old textile traditions of the past aren’t forgotten and replaced by the  cheap and immoral production techniques favored by the   by High Street. The exhibition runs until the 26th February, and is without a doubt a must see. I recommend you pop along, just for an education in the past. And to see if you can spot any of your relative’s items of clothing hidden somewhere!


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